ST. PETERSBURG — The iconic World Liquors sign that has marked the corner of Central Avenue and 16th Street for 53 years is coming down to make way for a new retail and residential development. World Plaza Shoppes will have 13,000 square feet of retail at street level and 14 loft apartments above.
World Liquors owner Paul Misiewicz and Pennsylvania-based DEPG Development Associates are partnering on the $5 million project. A newly constructed World Liquors will be the anchor tenant, taking up 3,000 square feet, about three times the size of the current store.
Construction is slated to start in early 2015 and be completed within about a year.
"Now the city of St. Petersburg is really expanding. New commercial space is being leased fairly easily, as you can tell by what's happening on Fourth Street," Misiewicz said.
He planned a smaller development of his own in 2009, but held off when the recession hit. Then last year, when his Keller Williams real estate agent met a Pennsylvania developer looking for Florida opportunities at a shopping center convention in Orlando, the timing was right.
"What we like about (the location) is it's going to be at the cutting edge. And others, including ourselves, will jump on the bandwagon as development continues spreading in a westward direction," said Jim DePetris, head of DEPG Development Associates.
Keller Williams agent Jean Kabore recalled the meeting with DePetris in Orlando. "Some of his investor friends had been telling him about how the Tampa-St. Pete area was growing so fast and he should take a look at the market," Kabore said.
DEPG, which includes four DePetris brothers, is a leading retail developer around the Pocono Mountains in northwestern Pennsylvania. "All the new things happening in St. Petersburg — the changes, the young people moving in and new restaurants — it's all very exciting," DePetris said.
While food and retail are thriving on Central Avenue, it's not considered a residential hub yet. Misiewicz points to the success of Fusion 1560 across the street. Its 253 apartments are 95 percent occupied, according to a leasing agent. Rents range from $955 to $1,850. Rental rates for the World Plaza apartments aren't set yet but will be in that range or lower.
The new World Liquors store will enable Misiewicz to grow the business his uncle started in 1956. Misiewicz has worked there 41 years.
"I'll have an expanded selection, better pricing, a very large section of craft beer. I'll be able to fill growlers," he said.
As for the store's signature sign, it is grandfathered in right now. But once it's moved and the building is razed, it won't be allowed under the city's sign code any more.
The American Sign Museum in Cincinnati has expressed interest in it in recent years but hasn't made a move to buy it. Misiewicz said he hasn't set a price but thinks the cost of moving the 30-foot-high globe would be much more than the sign itself. He's also not sure it will stay intact once it's taken down.
A smaller sign will be made for the new World Liquors.
Katherine Snow Smith can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @snowsmith.